Category Archives: Energy News

Next STEP in fusion [Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production]

The spherical tokamak is a promising type of compact fusion machine, which has been under development since the 1980s. UKAEA will start operating its new spherical tokamak called MAST-U in 2020, opening an exciting new chapter in the drive towards practical fusion energy.

The STEP programme will develop and identify solutions to the challenges of delivering fusion energy, benefiting from UKAEA’s breadth of expertise and its suite of research facilities – RACEMRF, H3AT and FTF – to deliver an integrated concept design.

The technical objectives of STEP are:

  • Deliver predictable net electricity greater than 100MW
  • Innovate to exploit fusion energy beyond electricity production
  • Ensure tritium self-sufficiency
  • Materials and components qualification under appropriate fusion conditions
  • Viable path to affordable lifecycle costs

The UK government has announced £20 million for the first year, launching STEP as a collaborative programme that combines the strengths of UKAEA with industry, universities and other organisations.

STEP offers numerous procurement opportunities, set out in the STEP Programme Procurement Plan Schedule. This is published every quarter and sets out procurement opportunities as well as details of the responsible procurement officer who can be contacted for more information. Note that tender dates are subject to change.

UK government to cut electricity bills for consumers in the north of Scotland

Households in the northern parts of Scotland could soon save money on their electricity bills thanks to UK government plans to more fairly distribute the costs for providing electricity to the Shetland Islands.

The isolated nature of Shetland’s electricity system means it costs £18 million more a year to keep its 23,000 residents’ homes and businesses powered, than it does to provide power on the mainland. The cost is currently picked up by consumers in the north of Scotland through their electricity bills.

These costs are expected to rise to £27 million from next year in order to deliver a necessary upgrade to Shetland’s power supply. The UK government is concerned about the burden this would place on consumers in the north of Scotland.

It has today (11 July 2019) published a consultation announcing plans to spread the costs of powering Shetland across Great Britain from April 2020, meaning consumers across the northern part of Scotland – from Thurso to Aberdeen – would save around £17 a year on their electricity bills.

Minister of State for Energy and Clean Growth, Chris Skidmore, said:

The UK government is committed to ensuring everyone across the country, including in the remotest parts of northern Scotland, has access to a reliable energy supply at a fair price. We’ve already shown this through our price cap – intervening in the market to protect loyal consumers in all parts of the union from being overcharged.

Consumers in the north of Scotland should not have to fund the costs of maintaining Shetland’s energy security alone. The ability to share costs more widely is one of the benefits of being part of the United Kingdom and these plans will mean consumers in the north of Scotland will soon receive a welcome saving on their bills.

Shetland is different to other Scottish islands as it’s the only part of Britain’s licensed distribution network that is isolated. It’s unable to benefit from the economies of scale enjoyed by other islands, which are part of the integrated network, which is why costs have always been higher.

Scotland Secretary David Mundell said:

I warmly welcome the UK government’s plan to cut the electricity costs of consumers in the north of Scotland. Spreading the costs across the whole of Great Britain reflects the unique circumstances in Shetland and northern Scotland. ‎The UK government is determined to deliver for all of Scotland’s communities.

The UK government’s Hydro Benefit Replacement Scheme already provides an annual cross-subsidy of £61 million to protect electricity consumers in the north of Scotland from the high costs of electricity distribution in the region. It is funded by charges on electricity suppliers across Great Britain.

The scheme will be used to deliver the new funding arrangement for Shetland’s electricity, meaning that the total assistance provided through to the north of Scotland consumers will be almost £90 million a year.

New laws to guarantee payment for solar homes providing excess electricity

UK Homes and green businesses generating renewable and low-carbon electricity to be guaranteed money for power supplied to the grid.

New solar homes and businesses creating and exporting electricity to the grid will be guaranteed a payment from suppliers under new laws to be introduced by the government this week (Monday 10 June).

The Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) will ensure small-scale electricity generators installing solar, wind or other forms of renewable generation with a capacity up to 5MW will be paid for each unit of electricity they sell to the grid – tracked by their smart meter.

Residential solar panels are now over 50% cheaper than in 2011. SEG will build on the previous government subsidy scheme, which drove the installations of 850,000 small-scale renewable projects, but without passing on the cost to consumers.

Encouraging suppliers to competitively bid for electricity will give households the best market price for their energy, while providing the local grid with more clean, green energy, as the UK bids to become a net zero emissions economy.

Energy and Clean Growth Minister Chris Skidmore, said:

The future of energy is local and the new smart export guarantee will ensure households that choose to become green energy generators will be guaranteed a payment for electricity supplied to the grid.

We want the energy market to innovate and it’s encouraging to see some suppliers already offering competitive export tariffs to reduce bills. We want more to follow suit, encouraging small-scale generation without adding to consumer bills, as we move towards a subsidy-free energy system and a net zero emissions economy.

SEG will place a legal obligation on energy suppliers with over 150,000 customers –covering more than 90% of the retail market – to introduce export tariffs by 1 January 2020. Some energy suppliers, including Octopus and Bulb, are already offering new smart tariffs, with some exceeding those offered under the previous subsidy scheme. At peak, solar has provided more than a quarter of the UK’s energy demands.

Chief Executive of Octopus Energy, Greg Jackson, said:

These smart export tariffs are game changing when it comes to harnessing the power of citizens to tackle climate change. They mean homes and businesses can be paid for producing clean electricity just like traditional generators, replacing old dirty power stations and pumping more renewable energy into the grid. This will help bring down prices for everyone as we use cheaper power generated locally by our neighbours.

The previous Feed-in Tariffs (FIT) scheme closed to new entrants from 31 March 2019, following consultations in 2015 and 2018, to reduce the costs to consumers as the price of installing solar panels came down.

SEG is designed to continue to grow the small-scale renewables export market by supporting local generation. Combined with existing technologies, like smart meters and battery storage, SEG will help bridge the gap to a smarter and more efficient energy system of the future.

The government is keen to support households and businesses in being able to store energy in batteries in their homes, which consumers will monitor on their smart meters, respond to price signals and choose the most economical times to charge their electric cars and sell their electricity back to the grid. In turn, this will help cut consumer bills, reduce the strain on energy networks, and give consumers more control of their energy use.

The new solar scheme comes as the government will unveil the winners of the latest round of the Energy Entrepreneurs Fund this week. One of the winners, Brill Power, has been awarded £686,000 in grant funding to explore further boosting the lifetime of lithium-ion battery packs for household energy storage and to bring down their cost for consumers.

HS2 could provide green energy to hundreds of new homes

In an innovative first, engineers developing the HS2 super-hub at Old Oak Common in north west London are proposing plans to tap heat from the brakes and engines of high speed trains to heat water and power central heating of up to 500 new homes that could be built nearby.

The scheme would see 5 air source heat pumps draw warm air from the railway’s tunnels, where the waste heat from trains is usually extracted by traditional ventilation systems and seeps into the ground surrounding the tunnels.

Instead HS2 Ltd’s plans would see waste heat fed into a local District Heating System. The new HS2 station at Old Oak Common is set to be the UK’s best connected rail interchange, with an estimated 250,000 people passing through every day. It will help kick-start the UK’s largest regeneration project, which aims to transform the former railway and industrial area, into a new neighbourhood supporting up to 65,000 jobs and 25,500 new homes*.

HS2 innovation manager, Pablo García, said:

HS2 is so much more than a railway. By taking a long term view of how the benefits of investing in the new high speed railway can be shared, we’re investigating how to provide sustainable, low-carbon heating and hot water to up to 500 new homes.

Near Old Oak Common we’re building a crossover box. This is an underground hall that houses a points junction to enable trains to arrive and depart from any of the station’s platforms.

Our plans would see warm air pushed into the crossover box by trains, in effect acting like pistons. It then rises to be harnessed by air source heat pumps, converted into hot water and transported to homes by insulated pipes.

Aerial view of Old Oak Common

Old Oak Common’s crossover box is capable of supporting waste heat recovery technology.

Based on current energy price forecasts, HS2 estimates that the investment in waste heat recycling system would pay for itself after just 4 years.

Compared to gas boilers being used in the homes, recycling heat generated by trains’ engines and brakes could reduce the carbon footprint of 500 houses by more than a fifth (22%).

Plans are at an early stage but the technology is proven. As the project progresses HS2 Ltd will work with local partners to make this aspiration a reality.

Pablo explained how Old Oak Common’s crossover box is the only place on HS2’s first section between London and the West Midlands capable of supporting waste heat recovery technology, but there may be further opportunities on the high speed network’s Leeds and Manchester routes.

Our study focused on possible Phase One opportunities because its designs are most advanced. Designs for the second phase of the railway are at an earlier stage, and we hope to look at whether waste heat recovery technology could be deployed there too.

Currently more than 1,000 people are at work on HS2 across London, clearing the way for the start of construction.

At Euston and the future HS2 terminus at Curzon Street in Birmingham demolitions are well underway alongside the project’s pioneering archaeology programme. Meanwhile clearance of the Washwood Heath site, the Birmingham location of the project’s future network control centre and rolling stock depot, is also in full swing.

In total more than 7,000 jobs are currently supported by the HS2 project, both directly and in the UK-wide supply chain.

Cyient Selected by UK Power Networks to Develop an Outage Planning Portal

Cyient, a global provider of engineering, manufacturing, geospatial, networks, digital, and operations management solutions to global industry leaders, will execute a project for UK Power Networks, the UK’s largest electricity distribution network operator. As part of the innovation project, called “Network Vision”, Cyient will develop an online outage planning and tracking integration portal that will help optimize distributed energy generation performance and deliver cost savings of as much as £1 million per year.

Planning network downtime is a complex process that involves balancing competing factors, making it necessary to interrupt power supplies on parts of the electricity network so engineers can undertake maintenance, upgrades and other tasks safely.

Cyient’s solution development team is working in collaboration with UK Power Networks to design and build the outage planning and tracking portal from the ground up. This will allow UK Power Networks to automate current processes and streamline how upgrades and maintenance tasks are scheduled.

Network Vision will give local energy generators – including renewable generation – visibility of planned work so they have the option to coordinate their own maintenance at the same time as the electricity network’s maintenance operations, and so minimize downtime.

Reducing downtime helps maximise the potential of renewable energy to feed into local electricity networks and could enable an extra 1080 MWh of renewable generation per year, saving 344 tonnes of CO2 emissions. That’s the equivalent effect of planting 172,000 trees (a forest 2.5 times the size of the City of London) every year.

John Renard, President of Utilities and Geospatial, and President of EMEA, Cyient said, “We are excited to be working with UK Power Networks on this innovative and revolutionary project that will enable utilities to change the way they manage their networks.”

“UK Power Networks has listened to what its stakeholders in the distributed energy community have said and responded with this project as a direct solution to their requests. It will give customers the ability to harmonize their plans with the network and ensure greater efficiency on network capacity.”

Ian Cameron, head of innovation at UK Power Networks, said: “The rapid growth of renewable energy in recent years means that our customers are changing and want us to respond to the needs they highlighted at our Distributed Generation Forums. We’re excited to improve the service we offer them and to share our learnings so that all networks can also benefit.”